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Finding Graduate Schools in Writing: Why Is This So Hard?

I Thought This Would Be Easy

When we are young, it seems so matter-of-fact, deciding what to do when we "grow up." Many of us decide to go on after high school to some sort of schooling, such as college, and major in an area of study that we either think will earn us a lot of money or a lot of satisfaction, depending on our thought process.

But then what? What do we do after college? Do we go on and get a job? What kind of job? What if the job requires extra schooling? What if we would rather go on to graduate school immediately rather than go into the work force?

These are tough questions to ponder. But it is necessary to ask ourselves what path we want to pursue, and to do the research to ensure that we don't end up in a rabbit hole that is not to our liking.

Writing and Related Professions

One of the nice things about a major or minor degree in Professional Writing, English, Communication, or Journalism is its flexibility. A degree in these fields can teach us how to write, how to process, how to think, and these abilities are valuable in a variety of careers. However, searching for a path to take can be tricky because of the number of terms that can be used to describe writing and related degree programs. We can easily get confused: what is the difference between a writing degree in rhetoric and a communication degree in rhetoric? Should I be applying to the Communication department or the English department? Why isn't there a separate Journalism department? It can be truly perplexing. Fortunately, there are ways to get our questions answered.


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How to Make The Process Easier

We can make the process easier on ourselves by doing some initial research into careers that we are interested in:

  • Take a look at the Occupational Outlook Handbook, which is produced by the Department of Labor. The OOH is searchable by keyword (for example, type in the word "journalist' and several different options come up with the word "journalist" or "journalism" somewhere within them). We can then choose a field or career that you are interested in learning more about, such as projected career growth, salary, and education requirements.
  • Try out the website Learn How to Become. This website not only provides information about careers and vocations, but also paths to take to reach our goals. Try looking up the career "writer."
  • Do a targeted search using Google or another search engine. Don't just type in "rhetoric" and expect to get anywhere; use as many useful keywords as possible (for example, "rhetoric composition phd programs" will yield pages with information on Ph.D. programs in rhetoric and composition as well as links to professional organizations in rhetoric and composition, which often have directories).
    • Sometimes it's hard to figure out what terms to use when doing a search. If we don't get the kind of results that we expected, we can try using different or more general terms ("writing" instead of "composition") or leave out terms altogether (take out the term "rhetoric").